1. Synephrine: Effective & Safe?
Bodybuilders have been looking for effective fat loss agents ever since the ban on ephedrine in fat loss supplements several years ago. To this end, many industry companies have innovated and have produced "ephedrine free" thermogenics products using new compounds and ephedrine-related compounds that, they claim, work to produce ephedrine-like results without the side-effects and supposedly slim safety margin associated with ephedrine.
Synephrine is one of the most popular ephedrine-related alternatives that was first to emerge following the ephedrine ban, and while synephrine contains beta-adrenergic stimulating alkaloids, and while many tout the fat-burning properties of synephrine, debate has been sharply divided over whether synephrine works to burn fat and if it is safe.
A recent analysis of the existing research sought to assess the effectiveness and safety of synephrine. Researchers examined animal studies, clinical weight loss trials, acute physiologic and case studies.
These studies concluded that - while some animal studies suggest that synephrine can stimulate fat loss while sparing lean tissue, and while human studies suggest a similar benefit - few human clinical studies have been done, and the existing human research is limited by scope and design.
Regarding safety in human subjects, researchers noted that synephrine increases blood pressure and may be harmful for people who have cardiovascular and cardiovascular-related health issues. Researchers also note that synephrine-related health complaints have increased in the past three years.
So is synephrine effective? It appears to be effective to some degree, but it is clear that it's not safe for everyone. But this is true for every supplement. Each person will respond differently because of a number of factors including age, sex, health status, conditioning, etc., and while synephrine may be safe for many people, it may be an inappropriate supplement option for others.
As always, more human studies need to be done, and consumers must continue to exercise caution and must do informed research in order to use synephrine effectively and safely.
View Synephrine Products Sorted By Top Sellers Here.
Hazz, S. et al. Citrus Aurantium and synephrine alkaloids. The International Association for the Study of Obesity. Obesity Reviews, 7, 79-88.
2. Glutamine... More Energy, Better Pump...
The debate over the effectiveness of glutamine has raged for years in the bodybuilding world. Some of the so-called "experts" claim that glutamine doesn't work, while others claim that glutamine is absolutely necessary for hard-training athletes.
A recent study appearing in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition had eight healthy male control subjects and eight subjects with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) undergo phenylalanine and tyrosine infusion for three hours. Following this infusion, subjects were given a tracer infusion and ingested a glutamine or glutamate drink or the same amount of water every 20 minutes for 80 minutes.
The researchers found that while glutamate ingestion did not have any effect, glutamine ingestion increased plasma concentrations of citrulline and arginine - substrates that are produced in the intestine and liver.
Citrulline is an amino acid that plays a key role in the Krebs energy cycle that can dramatically enhance energy levels, strength and exercise endurance. Arginine is an amino acid that stimulates nitric oxide - a neurotransmitter that is essential for proper muscular function, efficient nutrient delivery and rapid muscle growth.
| What Is The Krebs Cycle?
The Krebs Cycle (a.k.a "Citric Acid Cycle", "Tri-Carboxylic Acid Cycle" or "TCA Cycle") is a complex sequence of biochemical enzymatic reactions that is known to be responsible for how much fat is lost through the dissipation of Acetyl-CoA.
If the TCA cycle slows down, then fat loss is prohibited (fatty acids cannot be fully degraded). The Krebs Cycle involves oxidative metabolism of acetyl units and produces high-energy phosphate compounds, which serve as the main source of cellular energy.
The Krebs Cycle is named in recognition of the German chemist Hans Krebs, whose research into the cellular utilization of glucose contributed greatly to the modern understanding of this aspect of metabolism.
This study further supports the use of glutamine by hard-training bodybuilders.
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Rutten, E., et al. Metabolic effects of glutamine and glutamate ingestion in healthy subjects and in persons with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Am J Clin Nutr 2006;83:115-23.
3. Eat Breakfast... Just Make Sure You Eat The Right Breakfast...
Breakfast is supposed to be the most important meal of the day, or so we've all been told.
Many of us don't have time to eat breakfast because of tight schedule commitments, so breakfast is often skipped, and is usually replaced by a coffee and a muffin on the way to work or once we get to the office. For many people, including bodybuilders who have real jobs and real time commitments, this is a recipe for disaster.
Eating breakfast is important because it gives you the food you need to function correctly during the morning hours, to eliminate hunger pains, and it kick starts your metabolism and can stop catabolism and muscle wasting. But that's only if you eat a breakfast that includes protein.
An American Journal of Clinical Nutrition study sought to examine the effects of consuming a high protein breakfast or a high carbohydrate breakfast on satiety levels.
15 healthy male subjects submitted blood tests for up to three hours after consuming an isocaloric high protein breakfast (58.1% of calories from protein), and an isocaloric high-carbohydrate breakfast. The subjects also indicated their subjective level of satiety during this time.
Click Image To Enlarge.
Breakfast Gives You The Food You Need
To Function Correctly During The Morning Hours.
Researchers found that the high protein breakfast dramatically decreased postprandial ghrelin concentrations, whereas the high carbohydrate breakfast had only moderate effects. Not surprisingly, the high protein breakfast slowed gastric emptying.
This study goes to show that eating a solid breakfast that's high in protein is highly effective at making you full, keeping you full for a relatively long time period, and is effective at helping to control cravings.
For bodybuilders, a high protein breakfast can help to eliminate the "danger period" that emerges in the three hours post-breakfast and the 1 hour prior to lunch that can be the time where food cravings peak and threaten to derail healthy nutrition.
This study also makes the case for the use of high-protein meal replacements (MRP's) or Ready-to-drink (RTD) shakes that are precisely engineered to promote long-term fullness and muscle growth because of their high protein content and relatively low carbohydrate count.
Blom, W. et al. Effect of a high-protein breakfast on the postprandial ghrelin response. Am J Clin Nutr 2006;83:211-20.
4. Fats And Your Blood Pressure... Moderation Is Key...
Few bodybuilders realize the importance of blood pressure, and how having a healthy blood pressure is critical for muscle building and overall health.
Hypertension is a serious health concern, and it affects millions of people around the World, including many bodybuilders. High blood pressure leads to many health problems, including cardiovascular disease (CVD), heart attacks and even death.
Researchers wanted to assess the effects of dietary saturated, monounsaturated and n-3 fatty acids on blood pressure in healthy subjects. To this end, researchers had 162 participants randomly assigned to follow one of two diets: either a diet rich in monounsaturated fats or a diet rich in saturated fatty acids.
The researchers found that systolic and diastolic blood pressure decreased with the monounsaturated fatty acid diet but remained unchanged with the saturated fatty diet. The addition of the n-3 fats made no difference in both groups.
This led the researchers to conclude that an increase in saturated fatty acids will increase diastolic blood pressure, whereas an increase in monounsaturated fatty acids will decrease diastolic blood pressure.
They also note that while monounsaturated fatty acids had beneficial effects on blood pressure, a high total fat intake regardless of source negated the beneficial effects. So the moral of the story is: use good fats, but in moderation to get the most benefit.
Rasmussen, B.M., et al. Effects of dietary saturated, unsaturated and n-3 fatty acids on blood pressure in healthy subjects. Am J Clin Nutr 2006;83:221-6.
5. BCAA's & Central Fatigue...
BCAA's are powerful, and while BCAA's were once the rage, they have gone out of style in recent years as experts have come down on both sides of the issue, leading many to question their benefits.
New research coming out of Sweden examined the role of branched chain amino acids on Central fatigue - a condition that's characterized by the inability to maintain power output because of a decline in neuromuscular transmission signal quality output. When Central fatigue sets in, muscular failure results, and overtraining becomes a risk.
Tryptophan (Trp), an amino acid, is increased during exercise, and this increases 5-HT levels, a neurotransmitter that's present in some neurons (brain cells) that regulate motor activity in the brain.
Research shows that Trp and 5-HT are correlated with fatigue, and that levels of these chemicals rise during and after exercise, thereby promoting fatigue. Swedish research shows that BCAA's compete with Trp for transport to the brain, and that as BCAA levels increase, Trp and 5-HT levels decline.
Therefore, in addition to the benefits of BCAA's on nitrogen retention and protein synthesis, BCAA's may interrupt the fatigue process and allow you to work harder and longer, without increased risk of over-training.
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Newsholme, E. et al. Branched-Chain Amino Acids and Central Fatigue. J. Nutr. 136: 274S-276S, 2006.
6. Holidays & Your Weight: College Bodybuilders Beware!
Holiday Weight Gain:
To investigate the prevalence of this phenomenon, University of Oklahoma researchers conducted body composition examinations on 82 subjects (37 males, females) prior to Thanksgiving and after the New Year holiday. A week following Thanksgiving, subjects were again examined by researchers using a variety of methods, including dual x-ray absorptiometry.
| What Is Dual X-Ray Absorptiometry?
Dual energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA, previously DEXA) is a means of measuring bone mineral density (BMD). Two X-ray beams with differing energy levels are aimed at the patient's bones. When soft tissue absorption is subtracted out, the BMD can be determined from the absorption of each beam by bone.
The researchers found that while the average weight of all participants remained essentially unchanged from Thanksgiving to New Years holiday, there was a significant increase in body fat percentages for all subjects during the same time period.
This clearly points to a loss of lean muscle tissue and body fat gain. While researchers did not speculate as to a cause, it may be that changing seasons coupled with altered hormone responses and modified eating patterns contributed to the changes.
While older bodybuilders will be less susceptible to this phenomenon, all bodybuilders are at risk for similar changes and should carefully monitor body composition values during this time and adjust eating habits accordingly.
Hull, H. et al. The effects of the holiday season on bodyweight and composition in college students. Nutrition Metabolism 2006, 3:44.
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